Exit, pursued by singing orcs

May 20th, 2007

[ It’s taken 10 years to produce, and at £12.5m, it’s the costliest musical ever to hit town, so The Lord of the Rings had better be good. And, oddly enough, it just might be. ]

 [ “The harmonies are incredible, and the way the music expresses the different cultures of Middle-earth is really clever.” Tricky to pull together, too, apparently. The Lord of the Rings score began after a meeting in an Indian restaurant in London in 2003, set up by Nightingale, between the top Bollywood tunesmith AR Rahman and a Finnish folk ensemble, Varttina. Whether the results will sell the show to the Mary Poppins/Billy Elliot crowd remains to be seen. But they are undeniably – that word again – different.

This production will probably be remembered more for its sights than its sounds, however. The sheer scale of the beasties – the giant black furry spider; Balrog, the humungous redeyed demon from the underworld; and, tallest of all, the 20ft stilted ents – gives this Rings the feel of a Rio carnival reenacted in Covent Garden.

None of the speaking actors creates as vivid an impression as the snorting, leather-clad orcs, who power-skip and somersault across the stage like warthogs in bondage gear, and nearly steal the show when they cavort among the front rows of the stalls during the break between Acts II and III. Alongside these circus stunts, there are illusions, such as the vanishing of Bilbo Baggins in Act I, and a succession of back-projected images that hover above and behind the action. Warchus’s bid to fashion what he calls “total theatre” is about as total a spectacle as this theatregoer has witnessed.

Now there is another pause, until the critics return their verdict on June 20. As a creature of the world of subsidised art theatre, Warchus is suspicious of what he sees as the crude judgments of the mainstream commercial market. “The day after this opens, we will be disproportionately congratulated or disproportionately abused. That reception does not represent a validation of what we’ve done, I believe.”  ]

There’s also a behind-the-scenes video, which provides some flavor of this production, including the music.  It does rather appear worth getting a ticket.

Love, C.

5 Responses to “Exit, pursued by singing orcs”

  1. Lois Tiltonon 20 May 2007 at 10:46 pm

    I suppose it doesn’t include “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way”?

  2. kateelliotton 20 May 2007 at 11:37 pm

    after watching the video, and being interesting by the juxtaposition of Varttina and AR Rahman (!), I gotta say: my hat’s off to them for the attempt, however it turns out.

  3. Laura J. Mixonon 21 May 2007 at 8:26 am

    Dang! There are days I wished I lived in NYC again.

  4. Leon Staufferon 21 May 2007 at 4:37 pm

    # Lois Tilton 20 May 2007 at 10:46 pm wrote

    I suppose it doesn’t include “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way”?

    Probably not. Too bad, that was the best (only good) thing about that production and it really does deserve to survive.

    I have to admit, this actually sounds interesting. I was afraid it would be a horrible abomination, but it sounds like they gave it a good shot.

  5. chrisdon 22 May 2007 at 9:53 am

    Quite frankly, if Sean Bean isn’t there, I’m not sure I’m interested.

    Thanks for posting the link; off to take a look.

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